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Remembering Dr Pattabhi in Times of Doctors’ Strike


(KC kalkura)

On the occasion of the Doctors’ Day on July 1

The Sanskrit adage: “Vaidyo Narayano harih” (వైద్యోః నారాయణోః హరిః) is a metaphor, not a simile. The Doctor Himself is Almighty; not like the God.

A seventy-five years old patient died in Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College Hospital, Kolkota on 11th June 2019. Alleging negligence on their part, two Junior Doctors were manhandled by the relatives of the patient.

The doctors of the hospital went on a lightning strike.  Within three days, it spread so wild that the Junior Doctors all over the country were agitating. Seniors expressed solidarity with their successors and heirs.

Instead of pacifying the wounded feelings of the doctors and the sorrowful patients with soothing words, the flamboyant Chief Minister Mamatha Benarjee‘s irresponsible and outrageous outburst added fuel to fire.

At last with her intervention, the six-day-old strike was called off on 17 June 2019.  It is ironic that this has happened in the land of Dr. Bidan Chandra Roy, the first Indian to earn both the FRCS and MRCP degrees from the Royal College. He was the Chief Minister of Bengal for an unbroken period of 14 years from 1948 to 1962.  Roy’s successor mishandled the issue.

During the National Movement, since 1920, year after year, for several days and months normal life had been paralyzed.  Trains and buses stopped; communication, Post and Telegraph disturbed; Educational institutions and Law Courts boycotted; trade and commerce observed bundh; industries struck work.

There were occasions when life came to a standstill, but the medical and health services were not interrupted.  Among the freedom fighters, lawyers had a lion’s share; followed by the teaching profession and, though, in small numbers, some distinguished medical practitioners too participated in the movement.

The govt of India and the Medical Council of India (MCI), every year on July 1 (dates of Dr.Roy’s birth and death) observe Doctors’ Day and instituted Memorial Awards after him to the Medical fraternity in different disciplines.

Hence, among the freedom fighters, he alone is well known as a Doctor.  Dr.Rajkumari Amrut Kaur, the Princess Doctor; Dr. Jeevaraj Mehata from Gujarat; Dr. T.S.S.Rajan from Madras (Tamil Nadu) and Dr.Bhogaraju Pattabhi Sitaramaiah from Andhra24 November 1880 – 17 December 1959) were among others who gave up lucrative practice and answered the clarion call of the Mahatma.

Born into a lower-middle-class family, Pattabhi worked hard to get M.B.C.M i.e. Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Chirography (Surgery) from the Madras University. Within a short span of fifteen years he had a flourishing career and at its peak gave it up to plunge into the National Movement in 1920.

He led an austere life throughout; even without a car. In his autobiography (Questions and Answers on Contemporary History of India), He advised the medical professionals to be humane to serve according to the severity of the disease and charge as per the capacity of the patient.

Pattabhi is known as a freedom fighter, founder of the Andhra Bank and some more financial institutions, a writer,  the Congress Historian and a close confidante of the Mahatma. Very few know him as a doctor.

A couple of incidents from Pattabhi’s personal experience: 

When he set up practice at Machilipatnam, patients scarcely sought his services. One day he was summoned to attend on his Sanskrit Teacher Mokkapati Suryanarayana Sastry, suffering from the severe purge.

Drugs were not readily available to him.  Applying wisdom from the sixth sense he advised to administer Castor Oil. The patient was cured within no time. The very next day he attended on a weaver suffering from Pneumonia. Pattabhi advised to spread a woolen blanket on his body and administer few doses of brandy. The magic worked. Pattabhi writes: “With these two cases, I became a popular doctor among the two hundred houses in the town, as one who would save the patients from the jaws of death.  My prestige and reputation reached the pinnacle.”

Medical fraternity shall take up the cause of other ‘greats’ of the national movement and persuade and pressurize the Medical Council of India and the Indian Medical Association to institute awards to perpetuate the memories of the legends such as Pattabhi, if not at the National level, at least at the State level.

Autobiographies/ Biographies of the illustrious doctors who upheld the highest level of Medical ethics shall be included in the curriculum as non-detailed studies.

Egoistic misbehavior by the Constitutional dignitaries shall be considered a violation of the Oath of Office and Secrecy they take; a disqualification to hold the post.

“If wealth is lost, nothing is lost. If health is lost, something is lost. If the character is lost, everything is lost.”

(Kuradi Chandrasekhara Kalkura is a social activist and columnist from Kurnool. Ph.9440292979)